A local newspaper has reported that “Aboriginal artwork” recently discovered in the Blue Mountains is fake.
The handprint artwork was discovered in April as workers were called in to remove a 20-tonne boulder which threatened railway tracks at Glenbook, a suburb 70km west of Sydney.
Sydney Trains said it was verified as “culturally significant” by an independent archaeologist specialising in Aboriginal heritage.
But according to the Blue Mountains Gazette, the rock art was created by non-Indigenous teenage brothers in the 1960s.
In a letter sent to Indigenous Elders and the Australian Museum to “set the record straight”, a man who asked not be identified said they had not intended to cause offence or create controversy 50 years later.
"We loved Aboriginal culture and history and making the handprints was just another of our activities which imitated their culture," he wrote, according the newspaper.
"We ground some local red sandstone to make powder, mixed it with our saliva, rubbed it on our hands and simply stamped them onto the cave wall. I was amazed an expert did not realise they were not genuine as we did not stencil them, as Aboriginals would have, we just stamped them. We were not keen about putting the mix in our mouths, so we just rubbed it on our hands."
Aunty Sharyn Halls, the secretary of the Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association, said experts had “made a terrible mistake” and not consulted properly.
"The archaeologist should have done her work properly," she told the Blue Mountains Gazette.
"People jumped the gun. I drove 500km to meet this guy recently to confirm the story. Make no mistake this guy is the person who did it when he was a kid with his brothers."
In a statement, Sydney Trains said it was "committed to appropriate consultation with the Aboriginal community" and said it would encourage "any member of the community" to make contact if they have relevant information about the artwork.
"We will continue to work closely with the Office of Environment and Heritage and an independent archaeologist to determine the potential cultural significance of artwork inside a cave and the surrounding area at Glenbrook," a spokesman said.
"Sydney Trains has undertaken all cultural heritage assessments in accordance with legislative requirements and current Office of Environment and Heritage guidelines."
"Any claims about the authenticity and origin of the artwork will be guided by the final assessment."